The Best and Worst Things About Living in a Hostel, As Told By RuPaul’s Drag Race GIFs

This post is for a bit of a niche audience, eh?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been living and Workaway-ing in a hostel in Kuala Lumpur. Hostel life is definitely a unique experience, whether you’re working for accommodation or just staying for a few nights. Every hostel is different, and every night is different depending on the people that are staying for the night, but in general, you’ll find great things (and not so great things) at every hostel. To make things fun, I added GIFs from Drag Race. No reason. I just miss watching Drag Race every week.

All images are via RuPaul’s Drag Race, in case you were not aware. Just feel like I had to say it.

Continue reading “The Best and Worst Things About Living in a Hostel, As Told By RuPaul’s Drag Race GIFs”

Tiptoeing Back into Traveling: Post New Orleans Ramblings

In the past few months, while being jostled around by family reunions and summer vacations, I’ve been greedily collecting ideas, plans, maps, and dreams. Rather than a fire burning or a star bursting, I’ve been feeling like a box inside of me was shrinking, and I was stuffing more into it:

things I wanted to discuss in a coffee shop

projects I wanted to start now

phrases and ramblings and pictures.

These ideas, not being unleashed, were beginning to feel stale.

I’ve learned the only solution this is to stuff a bag full of clothes and notebooks, and head to somewhere fresh.

I spent a blink of an eye in New Orleans. I was able to wander through the cemeteries and fall in love (again) with a city that demands your attention to experience both an otherworldly presence and very real history. From the moment I walked into the Museum District, the soft pain and spooky intrigue of New Orleans that I had fell in love with while reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles last summer jumped in front of me like one of the many blaring saxophone solos I jumped for on Frenchman Street.

The words in Chronicles that defined New Orleans for me faded away and I replaced them with discussions, stories, and permanent words scribbled into a notebook over a French market crepe or quiet moment at Greenwood cemetery.

(Backpacking stories, hostel whisperings, local and tourist recommendations alike.)

These stories are not familiar, and the words become rearranged in every city you visit.

Hostel residents tend to tell the same story, but with a new twist every time. Where-you-headed-next and where-have-you-beens were exchanged, and as usual, I felt the simultaneous groan and a smile that comes from adding a new destination to my mental bucket list (this time, Costa Rica won out as the top dream.)

Quick run-ins and small chats brought your world in close with a tight squeeze and shrunk your story to a quick flip of a few pages.

The bartender at the shack whose name you hear whispered through the grapevine will tell you your future, finally humoring you until you’ve exhausted the thoughts that have been tumbling in your head about where to move and the pain you’ve felt looking at the artists giving it a go in the corners of galleries around the city.

The tarot reader in Jackson Square will tell you what she sees in your face and what you’re aching for in your bones. You’re hit with a smack in the face once you pop out of the bubble of introversion to discuss her cards, realizing your future is yours to write anyway, you don’t even remember her name.

 . . .

I write these words as I sit on a Megabus seat bumping through Texas. I’m reflecting on my trip, my gratitude, and I feel my energy being restored. Anyone who asks me if I’m an introvert while in a crowd of people will see the bashful answer on my face before I say, “Oh yeah.” I have to be alone to fill up. I opted out of my reserved seat on the Megabus today (a loss of a whole $1) to find a spot where I wouldn’t be surrounded by people. As I flew through the jobs on my to-do list (giving me the illusion I was flying through Louisiana,) I felt restored back to full.

My assignments for the day are done. My time in New Orleans has drawn to a gentle close, like finishing a good book with a long exhale, putting it back on your bookshelf with great care and knowing that in the future, you’ll revisit it once more with fresh eyes and a great yearning for a different interpretation of the story. It’s time to head back to “real life” now, with a clear mind and a refreshed determination to finally build my “what’s next.”

Finding Balance in the Windy City

Revisiting Chicago has always been something on my travel to-do list and luckily, I have an excuse to go whenever I want. My lovely sister lives in Lincoln Park, and she was moving into a new apartment when I went to visit.

Best sister ever, right? I flew over 1,000 miles to help her move.

I was able to get back into the travel groove with an old vice: art museum hopping. And guys, Chicago did not disappoint. I managed to check out the Museum of Contemporary Art the day before “Surrealism: The Conjured Life” ended its run. (If you’ve heard me talk about my trip to Figueres, you’ll know I’d go to any lengths to immerse myself in some good Surrealism.) My sister led me through the Art Institute of Chicago, which may have bumped a museum in my Top 5 out of its place. Hearing how much my father and grandmother enjoyed this museum when they visited was also super sweet.

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I also took a trip around Lincoln Park and played around with my travel camera! This is my favorite shot from the week.

Chicago was also a test of sorts. Since I can write for my job anywhere (with Wi-Fi), I wanted to see how I could manage working and traveling. I also tried to squeeze in as many yoga classes as I could, and shows, visiting friends who happened to be in Chicago, touristy food spots, buying stuff for my sister’s apartment…

Picking my “real life” up and moving it to a chilly, windy city was a little jolting. I was trying to live the working life while playing tourist and also big sister. At times, I couldn’t find the right balance and felt like I was letting myself or my sister down.

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Sneaking into DePaul’s library to finish assignments and grab Wi-Fi was actually quite lovely….

Shit really hit the fan when I went to a yoga class that I did not vibe with, at all. It wasn’t a bad class by any means; there were different poses and sequences that I really enjoyed! But here I was again, caught finding the perfect balance of separate lovely and stressful experiences. I felt wobbly. Not a good feeling when you know you’ve got to head into tree pose.

To ride out the tipping scales, I found myself going back to a little nugget of yoga knowledge that I’ve heard in various ways the past couple weeks: accept the pose. Whether you’re in a passive child’s pose or an excruciating chair, you’ve got to accept it. You’re here. I found myself using, “This is where I am” as a mantra in yoga, and throughout my day. In a bagel shop, on the train observing Chicago’s beautiful buildings, or enjoying some quality time with my sister, “This is where I am.”

It makes stressful moments bearable and sweet moments even more enjoyable.

Chicago was a learning experience and a great trip; I became more confident in my ability to balance work, travel, and life simultaneously. For now I’m back in Austin, but stay tuned for where I find myself next…

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Bonus Picture: I spent two days working at this coffee shop called the Bourgeois Pig and gushed with a barista over Father John Misty because what else are you going to do at a place called Bourgeois Pig?

Detached and Attached Again: How Traveling Questioned My Connections

“How long are you staying?”

I find myself becoming attached to Austin. Places and events, usually. I feel an overwhelming sense of dread when it comes to leaving this city but I’m also plagued with stomachaches, ravenous desires to backpack and move again. I couldn’t think of pursuing yoga teacher training in another city, for example, and I can barely handle missing class on Wednesday nights. I’ve got a favorite drink at a favorite bar. SXSW, I can’t leave Austin before another SXSW. But every day I look in the mirror and tell myself I can’t stay here for much longer. I fantasize over plane tickets. I shy away from year-long leases.

I traced the roots of my tug-of-war on a Saturday night, around midnight. I’m exhausted by the idea of developing deep personal connections, but the lack of these friendships or relationships just fuel the fire that only a plane ticket can put out.

I constantly feel alone, and I blame it on staying in one place. I rely on and long for the romance of single-serving friends, you know, the ones The Narrator mentions in Fight Club before meeting Tyler Durden? The Polish women at Open’er who cackled with me and my friend over Italian men and flip cup. An Australian in a Madrid hostel who told me about a great website for finding hostel jobs. The girls in my hostel room from Brighton who met up with me at a bar after a Tinder date. I couldn’t tell you any of their names, and they don’t remember mine. Attached and detached, without the obligations or expectations of meeting again.

I harshly and unapologetically place these expectations on myself and others when I’m stuck in one place. As a result, I have always felt permanently detached. In every group of friends I’ve ever had I’ve felt like a visitor, an outsider that was accepted, but didn’t belong. The weight of this old pain is just starting to suppress my breathing again. Rejected invitations, for whatever reason, send me into a tailspin. Sharing personal stories in a group closes my throat up. Single-serving friends…they let me enjoy my time. I breathe easier. I’m free to love and share positive energy, without the grasp of any social anxiety.

Admitting this feels unfair. This isn’t a post pointing the blame on a city or the souls of Austin that have welcomed me with open arms and every opportunity in the book. I place more blame, and do so with nothing but love, on moving from place to place. Especially now, maintaining relationships in one place has been overwhelming because I’ve given and received so much energy with other parts of the world.

Traveling doesn’t detach you from a single place just to spite you; there’s only so much of your heart to spare. For every whisper of loneliness I feel in the quiet moments around my house, I feel a longing to where another part of my heart is resting. I created Horcruxes while backpacking.

My heart is broken, but beating and shining, hiding, in different corners of the world. I just know there are stories waiting to be written, between two mysterious, beautiful buildings in Barcelona. Shreds of my heart and a stomachache waiting to happen lay quivering at a bus stop in Edinburgh. I picture my fingerprints on a metal balcony, overlooking Warsaw.  Exasperated energy still lingers in Copenhagen, where I discovered I was just living one big dream. Even the places I’ve never seen – I know there are people to love and things to learn and stories to be exchanged. Where will I leave a piece of me next?

When I think I lack connection in a single city, I remember that in fact, we’re all connected to each other, everywhere, infinitely. This lets me sink in comfortably to my armchair, but at the same time fires me up to fall in love with the next city and the next soul. I’m torn, to sum it up in two words. I have no immediate solution. So I find rest in the words of my good friend, Jack: “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”

Beat, Broke, Crafting! Souvenir Candles

The spring before my trip, I became obsessed with making candles. I had so many glass jars and a disgusting Pinterest habit (still do. Follow me.) I figured if I collected the materials for candles abroad and made them at home, I would be able to save space in my backpack AND save money. Win-win!

Keep those ticket stubs, friends, I have a use for them! And the use smells great!

Step 1: Collect Your Souvenirs!

I knew I was going to make these candles ahead of time, which gave me an excuse to hoard during my trip. I saved everything: metro passes, museum brochures, ticket stubs, festival schedules, maps….

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And this was AFTER I had thrown a bunch of things out in Berlin…AND Rome. I was a walking fire hazard. Peep my US collection in the bottom right corner…I can’t stop.

For the most part, the thinner the better. I glue all of my souvenirs to my candles (more on that later), so paper souvenirs have always worked best for me!

Step 2: Collect Your Materials!

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Here’s what you need for a basic souvenir candle:

  • Glass Jar – of any kind. I’ve used mason jars, old pasta sauce jars, old shot glasses…anything.
  • Mod Podge
  • Candle Wicks
  • Wax – I use soy wax! It’s easily accessible in bulk at any craft store or online. A pound and a half is plenty for a quart-sized mason jar.
  • Pouring Pot – It’s a lifesaver, and a burn-preventer. I got mine for less than 10 bucks online? It’s a great way to keep your candlemaking separate from your other stovetop activities.
  • Brush (0ptional) – It’s my favorite way to apply the Mod Podge
  • Fragrance (optional) – I’m using vanilla. I just like the smell.

Step 3: Arrange and Apply Your Souvenirs!

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My Poland-themed candle! 

I arranged mine by country, with big maps or festival schedules serving as the background and smaller souvenirs in front. This is the most fun part! Get creative.

You can apply your souvenirs in one of two ways! The easiest way is to Mod Podge them to the outside of the candle. Simple! I usually add a layer of Mod Podge to the back of the souvenirs and then another on top, just to secure it to the candle.

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A Rome-Themed Candle with Souvenirs Glued on the Outside!

 

Recently, however, I’ve been experimenting with putting them on the inside of the candle! This method can be tricky, however, as the wax may make its way in between the souvenirs and hide them a bit. However, with the way my Poland candle turned out, I think it adds a bit of an artsy, nostalgic touch. (Check it out later in the post.)

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Poland-Themed Candle With Souvenirs Inside (Pre-Wax)

Step 4: Melt Your Wax, Add Fragrance (optional)

Put your pouring pot on your stovetop and add bulk wax. Turning the stove on low still melts the wax in no time. You don’t have to add too much fragrance, either…a few drops will do.

 

Step 5: Add Your Wick!

This is honestly the hardest part. Straighten the wick out, wrap the end around your brush (or a pencil, or a fork…) and steady…steady….there.

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Step 6: Pour and Let it Harden!

Easy. The candles with souvenirs on the outside are going to look exactly the same before and after pouring wax, but the candles with souvenirs on the inside might be tricky.

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Poland Candle…Completed! 

As your candle burns, the wax melts and reveals the final details of your souvenirs. It’s a slow and lovely reminder of the trip you took and the memories you made.

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Hope you enjoyed this blog post…if you make any souvenir candles, show me!! My instagram is @beatbrokebackpacking, I post pictures of my travels and my blog posts. If you have suggestions for more crafts, let me know in the comments! Thanks again for reading!

Week 7: Scotland and Copenhagen!

Hello! Found a quick minute to write up a post, even though this week has been just as eventful as the past few. Here are the highlights from my time in Scotland and Copenhagen!

Glasgow: Brianna Fonti, this city was for you. I had a very lovely time in Glasgow and a very sweet Couchsurfing host named Andy. Toured the city, saw beautiful botanical gardens and a large, awesome graveyard. The Dali painting of Jesus may be the best painting I’ve seen on this trip and I’ve found my favorite store; at Missing, I picked up Bob Dylan’s Chronicles pt 1 for two quid and Trainspotting for one. I also did not do so well at quizzo with Andy and our new CS friend Johnny but that’s ok because I scored some veggie haggis in the meantime.


  
Edinburgh: In Kraków, I said Kraków was my favorite city. In Dublin, it was Dublin. But I’m serious this time, guys, it’s Edinburgh. Maybe it was because I stumbled on the largest arts festival in the world before it officially started (so I saw a few shows but didn’t have to deal with so much madness). Maybe it was the spontaneous hike up Arthur’s Seat, (shout out to meeting Teddy, who would be my touring friend for the rest of my time there). It could’ve been The Cow Shed, the mockumentaries, running into Savannah and Erich on The Royal Mile, or getting lost and giving a fake tour around Edinburgh. Or the exhibit at Scottish Parliament, where the most powerful photos from recent news stories were on display (still have chills from many of them). Anyway, can you tell I liked Edinburgh? I’ll be back for the fringe ASAP.


  
Copenhagen: One of the best parts of traveling is meeting new friends, and at Open’er, I was lucky enough to meet some wonderful Latvians. One of them, Rihards, goes to school in Copenhagen so I was able to visit him while checking out the city. He’s one of the nicest people EVER and it was great meeting his friends and hitting up Christiana and the bars with them as well. In Copenhagen I got to ride a bike to the city, visits the best art gallery I’ve been to all trip, finish Invisible Man in the botanic gardens (READ IT), and go to a clothes swap. As a part of the Copenhagen Fashion Festival, a pair of loose jeans I’ve had since the start of my trip got me three sweaters, three t shirts, and three pairs of pants. Shopping for the year = finished.


  
 And now…Berlin! An overnight bus took me to the #1 city I’ve been waiting to see. Just made a lovely dinner with my lovely host Verena, and 5 days of fun awaits!! Bonus picture for this week is a big inflatable cow behind where Teddy and I arrived very late to a show called Shit-Faced Shakespeare.

Week 4: Afritz (and a night in Milan!)

The first three weeks of my trip were filled with long nights, rushed mornings and not a lot of sleep. I knew I would need to take some time every few weeks to relax and also make myself useful. That’s how I ended up on a farm in Afritz, Austria.


I found this farm through Workaway, a site that’s kind of like an expanded WWOOF. (What’s WWOOF, you ask? Well, thank goodness I wrote a blog post about it.) I arrived at the farm, which is located about 30 minutes from a southern Austrian city called Villach, and was immediately in awe of the surrounding mountains and view.


The family all spoke in German, and not everyone spoke English. Not going to lie, it was a bummer sitting at the table sometimes and not knowing what was going on, but I managed. Everyone was very patient and sweet throughout the week, a big “thank you” to Miriam and Tomas who did most of the translating. I mainly learned German words that would help me in my work (“clean”, “food”, “sweep”); my jobs were mainly housework and preparing lunch.


I worked from around 830-2ish every day with lunch around noon. Then the rest of the day was mine! In my downtime, I did yoga, read, napped, and hiked. Lots of hiking. The farm was below Wöllaner Nock, and on my last day I hiked to the top…pretty nice view, right?


It was a lovely week but I had to move on; Somersault Festival has been calling my name for months now. To get there, I took a train to Milan and stayed for a night before my flight to Bristol. I got in around 8 P.M. but my day was just beginning.

My plans in Milan were to wander at night, but not before I went to Bar Luce. A few months ago, Wes Anderson designed Bar Luce for the Fondazione Prada, saying it was the perfect place to write a movie in. Considering my recent Wes Anderson kick and constant need for inspiration, I needed to go. Unfortunately I got there too late to check out the Fondazione Prada, but Bar Luce was still open. Look at how wonderful this place is! (Didn’t hurt that the bartenders were all beautiful, too.)

  
After my glass of wine and dose of whimsy, I decided to wander around the Duomo and the center of Milan. There’s something romantic about seeing these places at night.



I also had my first Italian gelato! I was pleasantly surprised at how cheap Milan was, considering my expectations. And so lively for a Monday night! Milan is officially on my list of places-I-must-go-back-to.


Every time I come to a new place, even if for a night, I keep thinking of that Hozier song “Someone New“. I’ve been falling in love just a little bit every day with somewhere new…whether it’s a cocktail bar in Milan or the lake Miriam took me to in Afritz. I’ve finally booked my ticket home (see you all September 13th!) but in the meantime, I’m going to keep exploring and keep falling in love with every place I go. Next stops, Bristol, Devon, Dublin, Glasgow….

Bonus picture for this week is a shot of how comfortable cows are with cars.

5 Things You’ll be Glad You Packed in your Backpack 

(Photo via Rei.com)

I’m almost a month into my trip, with about two months left to go. I’m getting the hang of living out of my 55 liter Osprey; it doesn’t feel as heavy and it’s becoming easier to pack. I didn’t pack a lot of clothes, but here are 5 things I’m so glad I packed (and you’ll be glad you packed when you head off on your backpacking adventure!)

via wisegeek.com

1. Sleep mask – it took me, 2 hours? into my overnight flight to think, “Thank goodness I packed a sleep mask” (or rather, thank goodness my mom offered to let me use hers). Between festivals and exploring new cities, sleep isn’t always a first priority. So on every bus, in every hostel, and every moment in my Open’er tent after the sun rose, sleep — and therefore, my sleep mask — was crucial.

2. Empty pillowcase – Most hostels and Couchsurfers have pillows available, but it’s always good to have a second pillow/first pillow (if camping). I usually fill mine with old clothes (doesn’t smell like roses, but I’ve survived) and then use it as a laundry bag.

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3. Fanny pack – Besides looking INSANELY attractive in it — alright, I tried. But my fanny pack has been a lifesaver, especially for music festivals. Everything is easily accessible, really close to me, and since mine is pretty small, I can keep things fairly organized. No backpacks to hassle with/have searched, less of a pain, a fantastic fashion statement (I’m really trying here.)  Mine is from Forever 21 (same with the one above), and they’re pretty cheap!

4. Charging phone case – Or rather, I’m just glad I chose a charging phone case. I have the Mophie case for iPhone 6, and having the extra battery handy is a great way to prevent a crappy situation. Six hours on a megabus with a broken outlet? No problem. Festivals? No need to charge for 2-3 days (if you’re on airplane mode).

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5. Dr. Bronner’s – Pour it into an airplane-size bottle or two and you’re set. I’ve used mine as soap, shampoo, shaving soap, and in the future I’ll probably take advantage of it as a toothpaste and laundry detergent. If you have to take one thing, take this. When I make my big move in October, I’ll probably pack what’s left of this huge bottle to use up (if my family hasn’t used it all!)

What items have been lifesavers on your trips? Let me know in the comments below!

Week 3: Prague and Vienna!

Before my trip, Monday nights were reserved for The Bachelorette (Team Jared), but now I hope I can consistently post updates. Here are the highlights from Prague and Vienna!
Prague: Originally I had blocked out these 3 days for Budapest, but getting to Prague was cheaper and I was going to do it with friends. So why not? Mackenzie, Erin and I somehow got ourselves together after a night in Kraków to get on a minibus and then a train to Prague. Despite being 25 minutes late to the bus, it got to the train station an hour and a half early (thank you, maniac Polish driver). We made it to their flat via a beautiful train and soon enough, I had a beer in hand. Shout out to Chapeau Rouge, it was a great welcome to Prague.



Exploring: I’m a professional wanderer, so I spent my first full day in Prague doing just that. While reading the wrong directions for the Prague Castle, I stumbled upon a very lovely vegan restaurant so obviously, that’s where I had lunch. It gave me the energy to check out all the views around the Prague Castle, including one from the very top of said castle. It cost a few bucks and it required a claustrophobia-inducing spiral staircase, but it was totally worth it.


More exploring!
: Next were checking out the obligatory John Lennon wall, St. Charles Bridge, and Old Town Square. Tucked away in the square was a museum with Dali and Warhol exhibits, so obviously I had to give a little look.


  


Segway Day:
Back in Kraków, Mackenzie and I discussed how necessary it was for us to take a Segway tour. My last day in Prague was the day. I could “czech” (I mean, I’m laughing) it off the bucket list. Bundled with the Segway tour was a ticket to a wax museum; I’m absolutely terrified of wax museums after some teacher had the wonderful idea of taking 4th graders to a Civil War wax museum, so obviously I had to go. I made it out fine and since Mackenzie lived in Prague, we told the Segway tour guide to skip the tour and let us ride around for 30 minutes. It. Was. Awesome.

  
  
Vienna!: It was super sad to depart from my friends, but Erin and I are going to meet up in Barcelona in a few weeks and I know I’ll run into Mackenzie soon. If my trip has taught me anything, it’s how small the freaking world is.
Vienna provided me the chance to fly solo — for a bit. I found a pay-what-you-wish, all-you-can-eat, vegan, Pakistani buffet, and then wandered into a film festival where they played La Boheme. As I enjoyed the free Wi-Fi and thought, “yup, this is indeed the opera that RENT is based off of”, I discovered that one of my fraternity brothers Vanessa AND Open’er pal Sam were both in Vienna. Naturally, we all met up and wandered into an Australian bar and a karaoke place. Pakistani dinner, Italian movie, Australian bar, American music (Sam performed “Me and Mrs. Jones”, Vanessa performed “Bad Touch”). Sounds about right?

  
Actual Austrian Attractions: The next morning, I was back to wandering. Nearby the hotel I stayed at was Statdpark, which was absolutely beautiful, and what I thought was one of the Wein Museums but actually a contemporary art museum displaying (from what I gathered) senior showcases from an art school in Vienna. Interesting stuff, and more my style anyway.

  

At that point, I met up with another CS host and got a list of Austrian tourist magnets (had to go to one or two, right?) I checked out the Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens, doing the Imperial Tour and becoming way more fascinated with Austrian royalty than I thought I would be. I checked out Prater, a free and very old amusement park (unfortunately the rides were around 4 euro. In my mind, paying 4 euro to ride a log flume alone would be admitting some form of defeat. I bought an ice cream cone and people-watched instead.) I also visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral, because I have Catholic parents/guilt, it was Sunday, and ever since Chamber Choir in high school….in new cities, I have to check out the cathedrals. Night ended with an interesting talk with my host about Europe, Greece, and American stereotypes. Yet another shout out to Couchsurfing, you learn so much from the people in this community.


  
 After Vienna is Villach, where I’m currently spending my first night. Thanks to Workaway (and my friend Stacie who told me about Workaway), I’m spending the week gardening, hiking, reading, writing, and meditating in the hills of Austria. Outside of my window I can see Italy and Slovenia. I’ll post on my way back, when I’m en route to Somersault (!!!!) This week’s bonus picture is me in the most touristy outfit I could find. Unfortunately, if I had worn this out of the house, I would have had to Segway alone (fair enough).